GENDER DIFFERENCES IN COMMUNICATION

Certainly, gender differences exist:

“Men are direct. Women are emotional….”
Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.” 

men are from mars women ar from venus book

You’ve probably heard the comments and perhaps you’ve witnessed differences between how men and women talk.

Recently a few people asked me about the differences between how men and women communicate. Like you, I’ve also heard the stereotypes.

Let’s see what the research says!

Here’s a list of 6 ways that men and women may differ in their communication, along with my summary of what the research says:

  1. How much we talk
  2. Our communication goals
  3. Our voices
  4. Our listening skills
  5. Our non-verbal communication
  6. Our confidence (and imposter syndrome)

As you’re reading this, keep in mind that sex is biological and gender is learned.  In other words, while there are innate, physiological differences that may explain some differences between the sexes, socialization and learned behaviors also account for significant differences…

gender and sex differences
image: Unsplash @ Crawford


1. GENDER DIFFERENCES IN HOW MUCH WE TALK

 

women talking
image: Unsplash @ bewakoofofficial

 

female physician
image: Unsplash @ nci

That said, your female physician may spend more time with you than a male physician. Research shows that female doctors spend an average of 2 minutes longer talking to their patients.

 


2.GENDER DIFFERENCES IN OUR COMMUNICATION GOALS

 

gender differences at work
image: Unsplash @ youxventures
  • The research on this one is pretty definitive. Even starting at a young age, multiple sources demonstrate that men use language to command dominance, power, and to achieve tangible outcomes, while women use communication as a tool to enhance social connections and create relationships.  
  • In a 2009 study of over 400 participants, researchers concluded significant differences in how men and women perceive the benefit of work relationships. Men focus on relationships at work as a means to get the job done.  Women value relationships at work in terms of social and emotional support. For women, work friendships are a key driver of job satisfaction.
gender differences in communication styles
image: Unsplash @ krakenimages

In other words:

  • men tend to be task-oriented while women are relationship-oriented.
  • men may engage in “report talk” while women gravitate to “rapport talk
  • men are “friendly” while women are “friends.” (Thanks to my friend Mary for this one!)

 


3. OUR VOICES

 

singer's voice
image: Unsplash @ xoutcastx
  • Our voices vary across several vocal elements including rate, volume, articulation, pronunciation, fluency, and pitch. Understanding and incorporating variety in (most of) these elements creates a more engaging voice. In other words, if we speak fast and slow, with a high and low pitch, loudly and softly, our communication tends to be more engaging.  This goes for both men and women.
  • The pitch of men’s voices is typically almost one octave deeper than women’s due to their relative testosterone level, the hormone that elongates the vocal cords during puberty. 
  • Plenty of research highlights the benefits of men’s deep voices:
    • Not surprisingly, women find men with deeper voices more attractive than those with higher-pitched voices
    • According to one academic study, male CEOs with deeper voices are more successful than their higher-pitched peers across several measures: they tend to manage larger companies, make $187,000 a year more, and last in their jobs an average five months longer.
    • A 2015 study concluded that the U.S. Presidential candidate with the deeper voice won in every election since Calvin Coolidge.
margaret Thatcher's voice
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher took voice lessons
to deepen her voice prior to an election – which she then won.

4. LISTENING SKILLS

 

gender differences in listening skills
image: Unsplash @ shopannaelizabeth
  • The biological, anatomical composition of men’s and women’s ears is identical.
  • However, research indicates that men and women may listen differently. In one fMRI study, researchers found that when listening, women tend to use both sides of the brain while men rely more heavily on the left brain hemisphere. (Language is processed primarily in the left hemisphere, and emotions are processed primarily in the right hemisphere.)
brain and communication style
image: Unsplash @ davidmatos

These results indicate that women may be able to connect words (language) to feelings or emotions more readily than men.   

 


5. GENDER DIFFERENCES IN NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION

manspreading
image: Unsplash @ mariana_sandulovych

women interpretting communication style cues non verbalimage: Unsplash @ sharonmccutchon

When it comes to interpreting non-verbal communication, research indicates that women are generally better at evaluating non-verbal cues, regardless of age or culture.


6. GENDER DIFFERENCES IN CONFIDENCE & THE IMPOSTER SYNDROME 

imposter syndrome
image: Unsplash @ abbasm

SO WHO’s THE BETTER COMMUNICATOR?

Oh no.  There’s no right answer to that question.

Two things we should ALL focus on, based on this research:

  1. our self-awareness
  2. our confidence

What’s your key take-away from all this?  I’d love to hear!  You can email me anytime.

Please forward this email to anyone who might appreciate some advice on gender differences in communication stylesThank you!  

Have a great week.

Talk soon,

Dr. Andrea Wojnicki
Chief Talker & Communication Coach


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